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An Assessment of the SBIR Program at the Department of Defense
to increase private sector commercialization derived from federal research and development.”2
Bringing new technologies developed under the research supported by SBIR awards to the marketplace has been a central objective of the SBIR program since its inception. The program’s initiation in the early 1980s in part reflected a concern that American investment in research was not being transformed adequately into products that could generate greater wealth, more employment, and increased competitiveness. Directing a portion of federal investment in R&D to small businesses was thus seen as a new means of meeting the mission needs of federal agencies while increasing the participation of small business and thereby the proportion of innovation that would be commercially relevant.3
Congressional and Executive Branch interest in the commercialization of SBIR research has increased over the life of the program.
A 1992 GAO study4 focused on commercialization in the wake of congressional expansion of the SBIR program in 1986.5 The 1992 reauthorization specifically “emphasize[d] the program’s goal of increasing private sector commercialization of technology developed through federal research and development6 and noted the need to “emphasize the program’s goal of increasing private sector commercialization of technology developed through federal research and development.” The 1992 reauthorization also changed the order in which the
The Small Business Innovation Development Act (PL 97-219).
A growing body of evidence, starting in the late 1970s and accelerating in the 1980s indicates that small businesses were assuming an increasingly important role in both innovation and job creation. See, for example, J. O. Flender and R. S. Morse, The Role of New Technical Enterprise in the U.S.Economy, Cambridge, MA: MIT Development Foundation, 1975, and David L. Birch, “Who Creates Jobs?” The Public Interest, 65:3-14, 1981. Evidence about the role of small businesses in the U.S. economy gained new credibility with the empirical analysis by Zoltan Acs and David Audretsch of the U.S. Small Business Innovation Data Base, which confirmed the increased importance of small firms in generating technological innovations and their growing contribution to the U.S. economy. See Zoltan Acs and David Audretsch, “Innovation in Large and Small Firms: An Empirical Analysis,” The American Economic Review 78(4):678-690, Sept 1988. See also Zoltan Acs and David Audretsch, Innovation and Small Firms, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1990.
U.S. Government Accounting Office, Federal Research: Small Business Innovation ResearchShows Success but Can Be Strengthened, GAO/RCED-92-37, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Accounting Office, March 1992.